I whole-heartedly believe that some people use the phrase too liberally, “God told me to…” as a defense of some of our actually self-interested actions. Too many hormone-ridden Christian teenagers have apparently heard the Voice of Almighty God when it has come to their crush for at least 6 days and are ready to propose marriage. Too many power-hungry or greedy, self-proclaimed Christian leaders have used the phrase for their own advantage.
However, the phrase becomes a reflection of a something more realistic when it comes off the lips of a person who is potentially suffering for the cause of Christ. “God told me I needed another jet,” goes in one ear and out the other. Meanwhile, “God told me to leave all that’s familiar, head out into the unknown with no guarantee of success, but to go on faith,” is when we begin to straighten up and listen. This sounds like the Voice of the Shepherd.
Paul is in chains headed to Rome and before King Agrippa because God told him that he would bear witness in Rome (Acts 23:11). Yet it is while he is bearing testimony, the latter half of Acts tells us that it happens through much beating, suffering and in ways and forms that may in fact discourage Paul to think that he is going about his calling the wrong way. We see a bittersweet parting of Paul from brothers in Christ in Acts 20:36-38. Why does Paul have to leave his family in the faith into the darkness that are his final trials? To bear witness about Jesus to people who may or may not hear. But Paul does it for the sake of the Gospel.
No wonder then, that, “As he was making his defense this way, Festus exclaimed in a loud voice, ‘You’re out of your mind, Paul! Too much study is driving you mad!’
“But Paul replied, ‘I’m not out of my mind, most excellent Festus. On the contrary, I’m speaking words of truth and good judgment. For the king knows about these matters. It is to him I am actually speaking boldly. For I am convinced that none of these things escapes his notice, since this was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you believe.’
“Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Are you going to persuade me to become a Christian so easily?’
“‘I wish before God,” replied Paul, “that whether easily or with difficulty, not only you but all who listen to me today might become as I am—except for these chains.” (Acts 26:24-29 HCSB)
I wonder if at times, if you wrestle with a calling to serve in place you’ve never seen, to serve people you’ve never seen, going somewhere for reasons you can’t explain naturally… if you ever feel out of your mind? In fact, as you read these words… perhaps too much study is driving you mad?
Commentary on this passage says quite well, “We must believe God in order to bear fruit for God. Our Creator calls us to do many things that seem strange from a this-worldly perspective. We are exhorted not to trust in princes, our bank accounts, or anything else in this world but to believe Christ and do what He says even when we know it will come at a great cost to us personally (Ps. 146:3; Luke 14:25-33).” (TABLETALK Magazine, Ligonier Ministries, June 2017*)
So how about you? Do you think you’re out of your mind? Or maybe you’re so into Jesus that He’s gearing up to use you in a way that doesn’t make sense to the world’s mind, but it makes sense to His mind who knows and sees all, and wants to conform you to His Son’s image, and has a plan to do just that that has very real, personal, and sanctifying ramifications for your life here and now… or there and now.
Kevin Davis is pastor of a small rural church in another Gospel-parched part of the continent, the Pacific Northwest. He is humbly blessed by his wife Christy, his son Calvin, and their two dogs Rocket and Tess, and his gracious congregation.